Residential air conditioning systems have come a long way in recent times and are much more energy efficient than their predecessors. This can be attributed to technological advances as well as consumer demand and more stringent government regulations. Let’s take a look at what this means to you as an individual and what it means to us as a nation.
It’s All in the Stars
The current star rating applied to air conditioning systems was established when the energy labelling standards went into effect on April 1st, 2010. The rating is determined by the Annual Energy Efficiency Ratio (AEER) applicable for cooling and the Annual Coefficient of Performance (ACOP) which is applicable to heating. The AEER and ACOP are annual operating energy outputs which are divided by the sum of annual operating and non-operating energy inputs. Non-operating energy input is determined by the Australian Standard AS/NZS 3823.2:2009. This Star Rating Index is actually calculated using tested values for energy and capacity instead of just going by the specs or rated values provided by the manufacturer. One star relates to an ACOP or AEER of 2.75 and every increase of 0.50 above that results in an additional star.
What Does It Mean?
AEERs and ACOPs are typically in the range of 2.75 to 4.5. This means that the heating or cooling output is 2.75 to 4.5 times greater than the electricity input. That equates to an efficiency of 275% to 450%. This incredible efficiency is achieved through the use of refrigeration heat pumps that collect heat inside the home and move it outside when cooling, or collect ambient heat from outside the home and move it inside when heating. This efficiency in heat pumps is due to the fact that they can move a lot more energy in the form of heat than what they require in the form of electricity.
What a GEM
More recently, the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012 just came into effect on October 1st, 2012. This legislation changes the way that the energy efficiency of various equipment in Australia is regulated. Improvements in the energy efficiency of residential, commercial and industrial appliances are greatly beneficial to Australia and New Zealand, both economically and environmentally. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as the reduction in energy demand will help consumers and businesses save on operating costs for the life of the appliance.
Mandatory Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) and Energy Rating Labels (ERLs) are the primary policy tools that will be used to achieve the target reductions. Most of us are familiar with ERLs (star labels) as they have been used to rate various electrical goods for twenty-five years. A new collaborative initiative, the Equipment Energy Efficiency Program (E3), will implement the policies. It includes representatives from all jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand.
Manufacturers of any product that falls under the jurisdiction of E3 must register their products with an E3 regulator before it can be lawfully sold in Australia or New Zealand. The registration process is a formal declaration by the manufacturer that the product is in full compliance with all relevant regulatory MEPS or ERL requirements.
It is projected that by the year 2024, the economic benefit of the E3 Program to the Australian economy will reach AUD$22.4 billion. In addition to the economic and environmental benefits, it is expected to generate significant savings for Australian households and businesses.